A frozen spring

The behaviour of our world leaders is extraordinary. These creatures trot out one ridiculous line after another about whatever and whoever, seemingly oblivious to the irony of their expedient relativism, all the while projecting as if theirs was the light and the way. They make policies based on any outlying prediction of convenience that their hypothetical histrionics can fashion and these become as the self-fulfilling prophesies of their tragic little imaginations. I’d say you couldn’t make it up but I reckon they do.

The scope for all manner of catastrophe by their obnoxious, cynical hands is horrifying. And we keep being told that there’s no alternative; that it’s competence or chaos; mainstream or radical fringe; with us or against us; deserving or undeserving; ally or monster; either-or. Always either-or… To do this they oversimplify each issue and circumstance, scapegoating or sexing up, until it is reduced to a catchy, polarizing meme and then they feign consternation over all the threats and distress they’ve conjured. Or do they conjure up a load of threats and distress and then simplify them to polarize everyone…?

How are we continuing to tolerate such an industrialised scale of hypocrisy and hubris? How on earth are we still bearing their cold indifference to cause and consequence; the expedience of their cruel, misguided pragmatism? How do we stomach the interminable provocations and funnelled paranoia? I don’t believe our modern species is so readily predisposed to such superficial extremes. I think we’re far too full of contradictions and nuance once you get underneath the first couple of layers. Why are these creatures still being allowed to get away with their obscene behaviour? At what point will we admit we are complicit and have learned to love our chains? For, if we are not; have not: where are our blazing pitchforks?

And Mainstream News’ content and delivery? It mostly seems to collude to serve the Powerful. We get fed shallow headlines followed by even shallower analyses; celebrity big-up or tear-down; something about someone, who apparently should know better, not toeing the latest line; a report about a report on something so appalling that people cannot understand how it could ever have happened at all, must ‘never again’ but probably will; a few temporary and meaningless economic numbers, followed by even more meaningless analysis; another story of hair-raising incompetence or fraud, quickly justified or deflected; another populist policy to tempt, punish or placate, framed as anything but the tinkering that it is; merit given to sheer electioneering mischief… And on and on. Every day more surreal and yet so sterile.

There are moments, some days and some whole days when it’s as though my outrage and numbness have been whisked into a solid fusion. It’s like I’m flung, for a period, into suspended animation. The passion of impotent protest, crowding in and freezing my whole being. I know it’s a fleeting overwhelm of emotion and thought but, well, it’s visiting more often and staying longer. Sometimes I think I’m only saved from losing ‘it’ due to lashings of healthy irreverence, an eye for the wry and a great deal of there but for the grace of… And I wonder at the leadership which creates and depends on a world of fight or flight for its profit; at all those around the world for whom this designed overwhelm is an imposed, perpetual constant. How are there not more people running around, demented, with wild eyes, pulling their hair out? Or curling up in a corner and rocking? I think we are, though, in our souls. Is it just me being temporarily consumed by the fanned extremes of my own angst or am I tripping into the angst of collective consciousness?

For the global atmosphere is a heavy fog of fear and denial, so widespread, so deep, so prevalent that, whether consciously or subconsciously, it must overshadow and infiltrate every individual to some degree. Even if you’re paying only a little attention to national and international affairs and conditions, you surely cannot fail to be at least uneasy about the interminable, mind-blowing ineptitude that has put our world in such a state – however you measure yourself by pressing ideological instruments. And they are pressing, aren’t they? In this reckoning coming – for reckoning is our current trajectory – there will be teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing for everyone.

And yet…

I have hope. It’s in that inextinguishable light contained in Humanity’s heart and mind and an enduring faith in our capacity for enlightenment and generosity of spirit. And I tell my shadow self that this grotesque age, too, shall pass. That the People will rise. That these monsters of narrow, selfish ideology will surely be slain lest our doom be sealed because, simply, it’s the grotesque or the rest of us. And I tell myself that, whether I’ll still be sane (please smile at that) or even still around for our healing, it matters little. Others will be. However long it takes. And that those generations will conduct themselves a bit better, perhaps for longer, next time around.

especially in times of dark

Always
but especially in times of dark,
encroaching space,
my hope alights and leans
on an enduring faith
in the human spirit
and the myriad illumined pockets
of kindness and enlightened thought.
They are as the stars in a night sky:
escape the density of beamed artifice
and they are constant; visible.
For the heart sees what it looks for
as much as does the mind’s lensed eye.

 

Shocked but not surprised

They lied?
On every side?
They spied
On all and any who?
Reprised the bad guys
Are the good guys
In disguise
To verify each madly
Badly crafted ruse?
And every time
A People rise
They buy the means
To interfere
And terrify
Conflating
To confuse?
… You what?
They turn a profit
On the spoils
Whenever non-compliant tyrants
Flee
Or choose to fight
Until they lose
Assimilate
Or die?
And they cry rivers
Full of blood and oil
And send the bill to you?
And, what?
They mock
And block your doubt
About the methods
They’re so wont to use?
Made everyone
So scared and ill-prepared
You say
‘Til no one’s got a clue
Of what is best to do
That few will even try?
And some are still not even
Asking why
We’re being taken
For a ride?
You might be shocked
But are you still surprised?

It’s taxing

Every time a government goes out of its way to avoid adequate public funding of something vital, it becomes a policy of regression where tiers of access develop that lead to a set of easily foreseeable crises. The deepest impact is always on those already least able to compensate for the absence of or dilution in service. This weakened group then becomes desperate and beholden to organised contempt, pity and guilt. Such policies always end up costing more than they might have because of the subsequent or exacerbation of the physical, emotional and mental deterioration that takes its worst toll on the most vulnerable. And what happens? The taxpayers have to pay the bill anyway, not just for the Government’s make-do-and-mend, second best service provision but also for the ensuing clean-up and salvage operations it led to. Does that hinder a healthy economy or has an unhealthy economy hindered general well-being..? It’s circular, now, isn’t it?

Why don’t we just stop faffing, get real and go straight to the taxpayer bit? We might as well… Ah, but we have assumed a convoluted yet immature attitude to general taxation and what it could and should do for us, haven’t we?

Commonly, a typical objection to raising tax revenue is something like because they waste it on… What the ‘on’ is, of course, is variable and subjective. However, the cowardly or ideologically managerial politics of administrations – that we vote in – shouldn’t be unduly conflated with the principle and purpose of collecting tax, should they?

In these times, when taking back collective ownership and control of transport and energy is a commonly held wish and when the NHS has never been in such danger from ideological fragmentation and when the effect of an education is increasingly a lottery of accumulative socio-economic factors: politicians should surely make the argument for general taxation as a part of the economics of common interest.

They should tell us that some things are simpler, more equitable, readily standardised, more transparent, better regulated and ultimately cheaper when people club together to pay for them. That when those things are essential services and utilities, there is an obvious overlap of personal and common good. That this needn’t preclude other public or private capital injections or investments for, for example, research and development because it’s not actually about shutting out the private sector at all costs nor imagining that we can just depend utterly on taxable revenue. That it’s about a narrative supporting we, the People’s collective investment in, ownership of and control over the services from which we all benefit and on which we all depend. I find it tragic that such an argument is beyond Mainstream’s gaze.

For example, Health and Education are rightly considered as bedrocks of community and progress and yet politicians are terribly fond of saying we can’t afford this and that for one reason or another. While, to be sure, there are enormous modern-world challenges which can produce incredible strains on infrastructure, they cannot be addressed by simply tinkering with what are usually symptoms as though they were isolated or anomalous when their real causes are, in fact, complex and interconnected. So, if we are not to fall further into hit-and-miss lives of fortune and distress and, because we know, deep down, that oversimplified blame or ideological zeal used as justification for curbing costs is not just morally authoritarian but a false economy that divides society by ignorance and arbitrary outrage: how can we possibly afford to not afford them?

We should be concerning ourselves with how to create an economy that works for the society we wish to be but, instead, we have socio-economic dysmorphia and it now seems like forever that we’ve been distorting ourselves to squeeze into an economy that is tethered to stale ideas and blind reliance on the inadequate models and systems they gave rise to.

Any decent government or other political leadership would be trying its utmost to ensure that all its populace lived comfortably, securely and with dignity. It would be reinforcing the merit of tax revenue as an honourable, common sense principle of collective responsibility. It would be creating reforms and policies that enabled and encouraged the tax burden to be spread fairly throughout society, from shifty corporations to those who should be on a living wage that facilitates a contribution. It would not keep setting about creating divisions between regions, institutions, economic classes or generations, merely to tinker so as to avoid the all too willing hysteria of our superficial Media and to save an entropic economic climate that undermines our well-being, even as it dies.

The prevailing mainstream view loves to say that we can’t have good healthcare without a strong economy and this is true – even if ‘strong’ is not a word I’d use – but, actually, it’s not the only, or even best way to frame things, is it, because we can equally state that we can’t have a strong economy without the population that contributes to it and is served by it, being healthy and well-educated. It’s a co-dependency. Always was.

Celebrity

Sometimes a celebrity
has talent
extending even into genius
integrity
and power unsurpassed
of beauty
grace
or class
that charismatic
je ne sais quite what
and wealth amassed
and trophies
of respect
for noble duty
or ability
of skill
or craft
but just as often
not.

MPs’ jobs

This constant and blatant resistance of the Conservative Party, to dealing with democratic reforms beyond occasional lip-service is fast becoming a sordid and sorry joke. The latest is that of Members of Parliament having second jobs and whether this acceptable, preferable or necessary.

The Cons’ main defence, apart from look! Over there! is that we need people from a diverse spectrum of experience and expertise. A notion with which, actually, only bigots and dinosaurs disagree. Ethnicity, gender, class, educational background, anyone..? Well.. quite. Pointing at Labour, during Prime Minister’s Question Time, today, Call-me-Dave claimed that under Labour’s plans to stop MPs’ conflicts of interest and profiting by second jobbing, ‘we would just have trade union cyphers.’ (12.26), At time of writing this, no journalist has produced evidence that any MP is a paid trade union official, though I’m sure some are digging, furiously.

Miliband responded that he is happy to rule out MPs being allowed to be paid union officials and that, to that end, could easily add the motion to his Opposition Day debate on paid directorships and consultancies. Cameron, naturally, goes all expediently and selectively deaf to this.

The Cons don’t have a leg to stand on over this conflict of time and interest – this ‘serving more than one master’ business. Also, attempting to class a cabinet post as a second job, as Dave did, is disingenuous (12.27): it has a higher remuneration, for one and it’s still a publicly funded parliamentary salary. Anyway, if we think it’s a conflict of time issue for a minister – if it’s too much for Cameron to be both Prime Minister and MP or for other MPs to be both ministers/secretaries and constituent MPs – then we can and should look at that separately. The Cons are being pathetic with their arguments and they know it.

Miliband is suggesting that limits on MPs’ earnings from second jobs should be capped at about 10% or 15% of their parliamentary salaries. I don’t know if this is the best solution. It surely helps an MP, appearing as a paid guest on a news/current affairs broadcast and the small family business type candidate who may otherwise be unfairly put off or even prohibited which, I think, we don’t want to happen. But I don’t know if this proposed percentage will address the more pertinent issue of upper scale profit and influence and I’m not sure how it touches the wider, deeper conflicts of time and interest. But that’s besides my point. It’s just a motion in a wider debate at the moment –  but at least there is debate.

Sir Peter Tapsell (Conservative), told Prime Minister’s Deflections that if MPs are not allowed a second job, membership of the Commons will be ‘confined to inheritors of substantial fortunes or “obsessive crackpots” or “those who are unemployable anywhere else”’ (12.36). As if that isn’t happening, already! And Adam Afriyie (Conservative), echoing Rifkind’s indignation a few days back, told BBC’s Newsnight on Monday that “you can’t expect an MP to scrabble around on a salary of £67,000”.

Now, it’s simply ridiculous to suggest that sixty-seven grand, plus expenses, is not enough to live on, (even if we agree, in the end, to an increase in their basic salaries) so, really, aren’t the Cons rather implying that those with alternative financial means aren’t so interested in public service – that it’s somehow beneath them – if it means a drop in income to still more than twice the national average and a curbing of their influence. Justifying second jobs as a way of attracting diversity of experience, then, seems mainly to promote a preservation of the already relatively wealthy and powerful. Because what Democracy really needs is more of the monied, crony class, isn’t it? That’ll get the diversity flowing.

Of course bring your life experience and expertise to a career in politics but don’t expect to use it for the purpose of personal financial gain and the wielding of improper influence. And don’t expect to be allowed to compromise your taxpayer-funded time of public service by continuing to practise your profession. I don’t want my GP, dentist, lawyer etc, to be simultaneously an MP. I want them to be available to and focused on their chosen job. Singular. Choose. If you want to be an MP, arrange to take a sabbatical from your profession, institution, corporation, etc (there’s nothing stopping you keeping your skills & knowledge updated). Otherwise, consider it as a complete career change or wait until you retire. Being an MP is to take up one of the most powerful and important offices of public service. You are being privileged with the honour of serving your constituents and country by representing and advocating in the interests of the common good. That is a 24/7 on-call job. All that is being asked of you is that you respect it.

It was a long career of distinguished service

It was a long career of distinguished service:

to Country, apparently;
to Party, markedly;
to a fine-feathered nest egg
as opportunity increased occasion.

And this experience of years
astounding
bade perfunctory persuasion,
made sufficient as
to be accorded
worldly-wise
with gravitas
and lauded elder statesman.